Employees who keep ahead in their field will always keep afloat when the flash floods of change are unleashed.
Employees who keep ahead in their field will always keep afloat when the flash floods of change are unleashed.

Like national politics, workplaces are about using subjectivity to make decisions when objectivity hits a dead end. Most of such decisions revolve around allocation and sharing of scarce organizational resources and work-related opportunities.

Greenhorn employees would want to avoid office politics but doing so has immediate and long term consequences. Nonetheless, you can survive and thrive in office politics by applying the following tactics.

Keep Ahead in Your Field: Employees who continually keep ahead in their field of specialization will always keep afloat when the flash floods of change are unleashed. The first casualties of change are employees who built ice cream houses in the cold season which are swept away in the hot season.

When one is well grounded in both capability and working experience, they will escape the scrutiny of subjective factors in promotions, retrenchment, foreign travel etc. Employees who have worked hard to earn the “indispensable” title are not a push-over when the going gets tough.

Beat Them or Join Them: Organizations operate in both formal and informal structures in their bid to meet their goals. The CEO influences the balance between the structures depending on the strategies that he or she wants to implement during their tenure of office. The formal structure oils the cogs of the wheel to ensure that goods are produced or services are offered.

On the other hand, informal structures fuel the formation of silos based on the existing power bases within the organization. Employees from silos that are linked to the most powerful more often than not enjoy the bigger share of the cake. Torn between the two extreme silos vulnerable employees buy into “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

Understand the Resource Brokers: Some employees who do not hold high offices in the organization are sometimes so influential that they are regarded as resource brokers. They dine with the mighty and crack jokes that keep them laughing while they quietly lobby for slanted allocation of resources. One should take time to understand the ways of resource brokers in case they become handy in the subjective decision making processes.

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Persuasion Overrides Aggression: Out of ignorance of the far and wide tentacles of office politics, some employees engage in aggression as a method of fighting over scarce work-related opportunities. Few employees with admirable persuasion skills carry the day when they table their resource allocation cases. Persuasion overrides aggression on matters where subjective factors cast shadows on objective ones. Acquiring persuasions skills in one’s toolbox of competencies becomes as necessary.

To avoid being a sacrificial lamb in an office tragedy, one should always remember that the buck stops at the top unless proved otherwise.

Study Signs of Times: CEOs, Boards or Heads of Department come and leave the organization but the institution is there to stay. Employees at lower levels are usually caught unawares when unanticipated abrupt changes occur at the top causing tremors throughout the organization. The corridors of the workplace become venues to discuss different re-alignments to accommodate the new power changes. Employees should study the signs of times so they can absorb organizational changes that impact on working relationships.

Avoid Sacrificial Lamb Tragedy: The greatest bungle in office politics is buck passing of major mistakes that no one wants to be singly accountable for. A fire broke out in the office killing two or more members of staff. Who should be held responsible? Most people would be quick to point accusing fingers at a weak employee or employees who may have nothing to do with the fire.

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To avoid being a sacrificial lamb in an office tragedy, one should always remember that the buck stops at the top unless proved otherwise. When two trains in India had head-on collisions, the Minister for Transport resigned on the same day.

Learning which ropes to skip in office politics takes a long time. But the first step to survival is for one to appreciate the frequent occurrence of office politics and continually stay inside the tide.


Samson Osero is a Human Resources Development Consultant. Email: [email protected]

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